Our most recommended things to do in Istanbul

Istanbul: Bosphorus Dinner Cruise & Show with Private Table

1. Istanbul: Bosphorus Dinner Cruise & Show with Private Table

Enjoy magical views of Istanbul from the Bosphorus on this dinner cruise. Sail on a yacht and watch a show with traditional Turkish folk dancing. Enjoy dinner and drinks while seeing sights like the Dolmabahçe Palace, the Galata Tower, and the Bosphorus Bridge.  Choose from a cruise with hotel pickup and drop-off from Istanbul via an air-conditioned van or meet directly at the port. Enjoy drinks like Turkish coffee, tea, unlimited soft drinks, and unlimited alcoholic drinks (depending on option selected). Pick between a standard meal or a VIP option. Savor an appetizer plate with options like a seasonal salad or hot starters. Choose a main course like mixed grilled meat, seasonal fish, or a vegetarian menu. Finish your meal with a sweet dessert.  Dine on your tasty food while watching live entertainment like Turkish folk dancing, Latin flamenco dancing, and a DJ. Gaze out the window at the imposing Galata Tower and Maiden's Tower, which has stood since the medieval Byzantine period. Enjoy shows such as live music, Dervishes, Turkish dances, Latin dance, flamenco, Sirtaki, and belly dance in the middle of the Bosphorus. Capture pictures of the Baroque Revival architecture of Dolmabahçe Palace and the Ortaköy Mosque. Admire the Bosphorus and Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridges which span the Bosphorus strait. Take in the waterside Ottoman architecture of the Beylerbeyi Palace. Vip Menu Starters: • 10 types of mixed Turkish appetizers or mixed seafood appetizers • Vegetable pastrami pie • Fish pastry • Shrimp stew • Fish meatballs • Grilled squid Main Dishes: • Mushroom beef stragozate • Beef medallion • Mixed grill plate (meatballs, lamb skewers, steak, chops) • Vegetarian vegetable casserole • Seasonal seafood grill • Italian pasta types • Salad • Mediterranean Turkish salad Desert and Fruit: • Mixed Special Turkish desert or fruity chocolate cake • Unlimited local and non-alcoholic beverages

Istanbul: Mevlevi Sema and the Whirling Dervishes Show

2. Istanbul: Mevlevi Sema and the Whirling Dervishes Show

Witness the Mevlevi Sema ceremony at the HodjaPasha Culture Center in central Istanbul and see the whirling dances and dervishes. Enjoy complimentary drinks during the show. Step inside a 550-year-old Ottoman Turkish bath in Sultanahmet-Sirkeci and take your place. Learn more about the Mevlevi Sema from the provided booklet. Marvel at this cultural dance that dates back 800 years. The program begins with a classical Turkish music concert. See the dervishes and sheikh take their place and praise the Prophet Mohammed. Following the chant, hear the drum voice as the dervishes perform the seven-part Sema ceremony which represents the birth of humanity. The Sema ends with a Fâtiha for the souls of all prophets, martyrs, and believers, and a prayer for the salvation of the country.

Istanbul: Bosphorus Cruise w/Audio Guide and Sunset Option

3. Istanbul: Bosphorus Cruise w/Audio Guide and Sunset Option

Hop on a sightseeing cruise to tour the Golden Horn and the Bosphorus. Get a fresh look at Istanbul on this boat tour with an audio guide to tell you all the top tales as you glide by Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, Maiden's Tower, and Galata Tower. Sail as far south to see the Bosphorus Bridge. Meet your host on the other side of Hagia Sophia and walk down to the pier behind the grand mosque. Jump on board to discover the Golden Horn, considered to be the world’s largest natural harbor. Sail through the magnificent Bosphorus strait forming the continental boundary between Asia and Europe. On your way, come across cultural and historical emblems of Istanbul like Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, Maiden's Tower, and Galata Tower. Learn about the city’s rich heritage with an audio guide. Admire the Bosphorus coastline on the European side from the cruise, and see a string of villages, each with its own individual character and attractions. Glide past Dolmabahçe Palace, Ciragan Palace, Ortaköy Mosque, and the Bosphorus Bridge, among others. Be sure to keep an eye out for ancient castles, famous parks, and spectacular seaside residences from different centuries. Capture stunning pictures of the vibrant city of Istanbul along the water on this scenic cruise.

Istanbul: Blue Mosque & Hagia Sophia Small-Group Tour

4. Istanbul: Blue Mosque & Hagia Sophia Small-Group Tour

Discover the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, and the Hippodrome on a private or shared guided walking tour in Istanbul. Admire the historic architecture and unique views of the city. Get an insider perspective of these must-see sights. Meet your guide in the Sultanahmet neighborhood at an easy spot and check out Istanbul's greatest monuments on a walking tour. Start with the Blue Mosque, the most visited monument in Istanbul famous for its stunning blue tiles. Marvel at this imperial Ottoman Mosque, commissioned by Sultan Ahmet. Witness the evocative power and splendor of its past as you enjoy a comprehensive guided tour of the Blue Mosque. Afterward, enjoy the courtyard for breathtaking views of modern Istanbulites and take a stroll around the neighborhood. Walk through the Hippodrome, the social and political center of the city, and learn about the significance of the famous obelisks. Visit the Hagia Sophia and witness the most significant site of the Greek Orthodox religion in Istanbul and learn how it was converted into a mosque after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople. Explore the stunning monument with elements of a mosque and a church standing next to each other. Admire the basilica’s stunning dome and minarets, and countless mosaics, paintings, and Roman columns. Learn how the impressive İznik tiles were added over time in the Mosque, how the stunning Virgin Mary mosaic was made, and why the Ottomans chose to bury their sultans in the courtyard. Explore the Arasta Bazaar nestled right under the shadow of the Blue Mosque to understand 17th Century architecture of public buildings. It is a well-known but modest open-air market in the heart of Sultanahmet. Enjoy a last-minute tea break and hunt for gifts to take home. End your tour in Sultanahmet Square with enough information and hints to help you be independent for the rest of your time in Istanbul.

Hagia Sophia: Entry with Guided Tour

5. Hagia Sophia: Entry with Guided Tour

Travel back in time to experience the story of the ancient Hagia Sophia on a guided tour in Istanbul. Trace how this iconic site has transformed over time with a local guide. Uncover stunning details as you explore this architectural gem. Meet with your professional local guide in front of Hagia Sophia. Hear a short history of the Old City then start the Hagia Sophia tour.  Your guide will explain the mystery of the magnificent Hagia Sophia. Hagia Sophia is a great architectural beauty and an important monument both for the Byzantine and the Ottoman Empires. Once a church, later a mosque, the Hagia Sophia has always been a precious building for the locals.

Istanbul: Basilica Cistern Tour and Skip The Line with Guide

6. Istanbul: Basilica Cistern Tour and Skip The Line with Guide

Discover the Basilica Cistern under the streets of Istanbul on a guided tour. Be amazed by the stunning architecture of the cistern during the tour and gaze at the Medusa Heads. Skip-the-line and avoid the long queue, as you follow your guide through history. Meet your guide in front of the exit gate of the Basilica Cistern and enter together. Skip the long lines and enjoy a highlights tour and learn interesting facts about the water cistern with an audio guide. Marvel at the engineering of the cistern while hearing the history with a downloadable audio guide. After your guided tour, stay and explore the building at your own pace. 

Istanbul: Bosphorus & Golden Horn Cruise Daytime or Sunset

7. Istanbul: Bosphorus & Golden Horn Cruise Daytime or Sunset

A Bosphorus cruise is one of the best things to do in Istanbul. Get on the boat and start discovering the long waterway which separates Europe and Asia. Discover Istanbul’s main attractions, including magnificent palaces, ancient castles and famous hills and parks, as well as spectacular seaside residences from different centuries while passing under famous bridges. You will start your tour from the Old City in Sultanahmet and cruise along the European side until the 2nd Bosphorus bridge and return back along the Asian coast. You will pass by Dolmabahce Palace, Ciragan Palace, Ortaköy Mosque, Bosphorus Bridge, Rumeli Fortress and Beylerbeyi Palace. You will aslo get to see some historical landmarks from a distance such as Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, Maiden Tower, and Galata Tower. 

Istanbul: Bosphorus Sunset Cruise with Live Guide and Drinks

8. Istanbul: Bosphorus Sunset Cruise with Live Guide and Drinks

The Sunset cruise starts from Kabatas Pier with a nice, decorated luxury yacht, sail up to second bridge of the Bosphorus from European part of Bosphorus Strait. While you are having your drinks with snacks enjoy the panoramic views that you wouldn’t see otherwise, and access excellent photo opportunities of Dolmabahce Palace, Ortaköy Mosque, the Rumeli Fortress, and many more local landmarks. After reaching to second bridge sail up from opposite direction to the Asian part of Bosphorus Strait. Watch the views of wooden houses and have information about all beautiful spots of Bosphorus by our legendary guide. You are now at Maidens Tower in the middle of the sea one of the best iconic point of Marmara Sea. With this beautiful tower you will have the opportunity of shooting some pictures of sunset on Bosphorus. Get ready to glide through the depths of history in the Bosphorus, the most beautiful place in Istanbul. You will forget all the tiredness of the day with the friendly service we will give you on our boat, which is one of the most beautiful yachts of the Bosphorus. Get your cameras ready while you get interesting information about history from our experienced and friendly guide. Because you will want to take a picture of all the beauties of the Bosphorus. We will end up our Sunset Cruise with some picture opportunity of old city at Kabatas pier where we start.

Istanbul: Bosphorus Dinner Cruise w/ Drinks & Entertainment

9. Istanbul: Bosphorus Dinner Cruise w/ Drinks & Entertainment

Join a sightseeing dinner cruise along the Bosphorus Strait. Enjoy a welcome cocktail and dine with live entertainment. Pass some of Istanbul's most famous monuments, including Dolmabahçe Palace. Cruise between Europe and Asia and pass under the Bosphorus Bridge and Fatih Sultan Mehmed Bridge. See the summer palaces of the Ottoman sultans, including Dolmabahçe Palace and Beylerbeyi Palace. Admire the fortifications of Rumeli Castle and Anatolian Castle, and marvel at the mansions that line both coastlines. Watch live folk dances from the regions of Turkey, be seduced by a belly dancer, and relax to international music played by the on-board DJ.

Istanbul: Bosphorus Dinner Cruise and Turkish Night Show

10. Istanbul: Bosphorus Dinner Cruise and Turkish Night Show

The Bosphorus night tour with dinner and "Turkish Night Show" is a luxurious and entertaining way to experience Istanbul's beauty and culture. This tour combines a relaxing cruise along the Bosphorus Strait with a delicious dinner and a vibrant cultural performance. The tour typically starts from the pier where the boat awaits. You'll board a comfortable and modern vessel equipped with indoor and outdoor seating areas, as well as a bar serving refreshing drinks and snacks. As the boat sets sail, you'll be treated to a stunning view of Istanbul's iconic landmarks, such as the Bosphorus Bridge, Dolmabahce Palace, and Maiden's Tower, all illuminated by the city lights. You'll also see the European and Asian sides of the city, which are divided by the Bosphorus Strait. The highlight of this tour is the delicious dinner that will be served on board, featuring a variety of Turkish specialties. The dinner is accompanied by a selection of local wines and soft drinks, creating a true feast for your senses. After dinner, you'll be entertained by a "Turkish Night Show", featuring traditional music, dance, and costume performances. The show includes belly dancers, folk dancers, cultural dances and live music, all of which showcase the vibrant and colorful culture of Turkey. You'll be invited to join in the fun and dance along to the music, creating a memorable and interactive experience. The tour usually lasts for around three hours, and once it's over. The Bosphorus night tour with dinner and "Turkish Night Show" is a fantastic way to experience Istanbul's beauty, culture, and cuisine all in one unforgettable evening. It's perfect for couples, families, and groups of friends who want to enjoy a special night out in Istanbul. ~ STANDART MENU ~ • TURKISH STARTER PLATE Spicy Paste, Fava, Muhammara, American Salad, Feta Chese, Cheddar Cheese, Haydari, Tomato, Cucumber • GREENS SALAD • PAÇANGA PASTRY • MAIN COURSE Grilled Meatballs, Spicy Chicken Skewers, Baked Seasonal Fish (Vegetarian Menu: Grilled Vegetables with Rice or Pasta) • TURKISH BAKLAVA PLATE • UNLIMITED LOCAL ALCOHOLIC & SOFT DRINKS Beer, Raki, Vodka, Red and White Wine, Gin and Soft Drinks NOTE: Imported alcoholic drinks are extra charged. There are 50 kinds of imported alcoholic beverages on board. ~ NEW YEAR PARTY PROGRAMME & SPECIAL MENU ~ * Chard Wraps, Salmon Rolls in Crepe, Chicken Breast with garlic and walnut, Beans Paste, Ezine White Cheese * New Year's Special Crispy Bombela Pastry * Chesnut Turkey Rolls Served with rice with raisins - pine nuts and butter sauted vegetables. * Caesar’s Salad Served with sauted shrimp. * New Year's Cake Caramel Roasted Peanuts with Orange Flavor * Ulimited Alcoholic & Soft Drinks Beer, Raki, Vodka, Red and White Wine, Gin and Soft Drinks ( Champagne service as the New Year approaches ) NOTE: Imported alcoholic drinks are extra charged. There are 50 kinds of imported alcoholic beverages on board.

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What are the best day trips and excursions from Istanbul?

The best day trips and excursions from Istanbul are:


Insider Tips: Planning a trip to Istanbul

Soumya is a history and culture-enthusiast with a passion for traveling the world. She has lived on 4 continents and traveled to 30+ countries, while immersing herself in local culture in each one of them. She loves writing about her experiences on her travel blog, Stories by Soumya, and also contributes to leading publications such as BBC Travel and Architectural Digest.

What should I do on my first trip to Istanbul?

When in Istanbul, do not miss Hagia Sophia, one of the world's most impressive and contested religious monuments. Once an Eastern Roman Church, later a museum, and now a mosque, Hagia Sophia has a storied history. Hagia Sophia's collection of Byzantine mosaics is breathtaking. Another unmissable Istanbul landmark is the Galata Tower, an iconic watchtower whose origins date to the early 6th century. Today, Galata Tower is a symbol of Istanbul and the best place to get panoramic views of the Bosphorus and the Golden Horn.

What are some hidden gems to see in Istanbul?

The colorful and historical neighborhoods of Fener and Balat are hidden gems in Istanbul waiting to be discovered. Filled with cobbled streets, pastel-colored buildings, and gorgeous religious buildings, both Fener and Balat are a sight for sore eyes. Another secret place in Istanbul that will appeal to both history and art lovers is the Great Palace Mosaics Museum (closed for restoration at the moment). Located right around the corner from the Sultanahmet Park, the Mosaics Museum is the only remaining part of the Great Palace of Constantinople and is home to stunning floor mosaics from the Roman era.

How much time should I spend in Istanbul?

3 days are ideal to see the highlights of Istanbul.

On Day 1, explore the historic center, also called Sultanahmet. Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, the Hippodrome, Basilica Cistern, and the Archeological Museums are all located in this area. The Grand Bazaar is not very far away either.

On Day 2, take a stroll around Beyoglu and wander into its many museums, enjoy the vibes of Taksim Square and Istiklal Street, and head to the Galata Tower for a beautiful sunset.

Day 3 can be all about exploring the majestic Topkapi Palace, taking a cruise on the Bosphorus, and visiting some hidden gems such as the Ortakoy Mosque and Beylerbei Palace. If you'd like to escape the humdrum of city life, take a ferry to the Princes Islands and enjoy a day in nature.

What food is Istanbul known for?

If there's just one dish you have to taste in Istanbul, then that has to be doner kebap. Made with shaved meat skewered and grilled on a vertical spit, the doner is one of Turkey's most iconic dishes. Doner kebap can be served in different ways - with rice and potatoes, as a sandwich, or wrapped in lavas. Doner kebap originated in the Ottoman Empire in the 19th century but has spread all over the world ever since and is known by several names now, some of the wellknown ones being Arab Shawarmas, Greek Gyros, and Mexican Tacos Al Pastor. Other delicious dishes that you should definitely try in Istanbul are simit, dolma, balik ekmek, kokorec, dondurma, baklava, and Turkish tea and coffee.

What is the best way to get around Istanbul?

The Historic Center of Istanbul or the Sultanahmet area is extremely walkable and can be easily covered on feet. If you wish to rest your legs a bit, take a ride on Tram T1 which connects all tourist attractions in the historic district. For all attractions outside the historic center, take a taxi or ride in a dolmus, shared vans that offer cheap rides throughout the city.

What are the best months to visit Istanbul?

The best months to visit Istanbul are April - May (spring) and September - October (fall). Temperatures hover in the late 60s - early 70s, there's plenty of sunshine, and the weather is just perfect to be out and about. Istanbul also plays host to a number of festivals during these months. The most beautiful festivals include the International Tulip Festival (April), Istanbul International Film Festival (April), Istanbul Coffee Festival (October), and Akbank Jazz Festival (September - October).

What are the best neighborhoods to visit in Istanbul?

Beyoglu is one of the best neighborhoods to visit in Istanbul. It is home to the famous Galata Tower, Taksim Square, and boasts of numerous art galleries and cultural centers. PERA Museum, Istanbul Museum of Modern Art, SALT Art Gallery are a couple of famous ones. The happening Istiklal Street, that runs through the center of Beyoglu, is chock full of classic Art Nouveau buildings, shops, restaurants, & bars. In short, Beyoglu is Istanbul's throbbing cultural heart that attracts art connoisseurs, history lovers, foodies, and partygoers alike.

What are the best neighborhoods for food?

Kadikoy, on the Asian side, is one of Istanbul's trendiest neighborhoods and the best place for good food. Full of high-quality restaurants and trendy cafes, Kadikoy offers a wide variety of Turkish food including doner kebaps, Iskender kebaps, stuffed mussels, kokorec, refreshing juices, tea, and coffee. The best way to explore Kadikoy is on this food tour (https://www.getyourguide.com/istanbul-l56/istanbul-taste-of-two-continents-food-tour-t187992/) that let's you taste the best that Kadikoy has to offer.

What are the best neighborhoods for shopping?

Istanbul is home to several medieval markets dating to the Ottoman era, the most popular one being the Grand Bazaar. Dating to the 15th century, the Grand Bazaar is home to over 4000 shops and the best place to buy Turkish souvenirs. Be sure to check out the Iznik tiles, evil eye charms, glittering mosaic lamps, and handmade carpets at Grand Bazaar. If you're planning to luxury shop, check out the chic neighborhood of Nişantaşı that's full of high-end department stores, boutiques, cafes, and fine dining restaurants.

What neighborhood should I stay in when I visit x?

Sultanahmet is the best neighborhood to stay in Istanbul because it is one of the safest areas in Istanbul and is home to all major attractions including Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Grand Bazaar, and Topkapi Palace. If you're visiting Istanbul for the first time, Sultanahmet is your best bet. However, if you'd like to venture out of the historic district, then I highly recommend staying in Besiktas, an upscale neighborhood that is home to luxurious hotels and quaint BnBs, all of which provide stunning views of the Bosphorus.

What's are 4 best tips for a person traveling to Istanbul?

1) Buy an Istanbul Museum Pass which covers many museums and palaces in the city including the pricey Topkapi Palace and Harem. The pass is valid for 5 days and will save you some precious dollars. Check the list of museums covered on the official website here: Museums

2) Stay in the Sultanahmet area if it is your first time in Istanbul. You'll be right in the middle of the historic center and within walking distance from all unmissable Istanbul attractions.

3) Istanbul traffic is crazy especially during rush hours. Avoid taking a car. Use the metro and tram instead.

4) Booking.com is blocked in Turkey. Be sure to complete your bookings before you enter Turkey or use a VPN.

What should people avoid doing in Istanbul?

Avoid taking a taxi during peak office hours because the roads can get crazy busy and you'll be stuck for hours. Take the metro or tram instead. Avoid getting drinks or going to the bar with strangers. You may fall prey to the "Let's Have a Drink" scam where you end up paying thousands of dollars for other people's drinks.

What are your top 4 favourite GetYourGuide experiences in Istanbul?

1) Istanbul: Blue Mosque & Hagia Sophia Small-Group Tour

2) Istanbul: Basilica Cistern Skip-the-Line Guided Tour

3) Istanbul: Bosphorus Dinner Cruise & Show with Private Table

4) Istanbul: Mevlevi Sema and the Whirling Dervishes Show

What is one thing that surprised you about Istanbul?

While, I am not a vegetarian, I always love to indulge in veg and vegan food when traveling. I always thought that it would be difficult to find vegetarian food in Istanbul. But I was so wrong. Istanbul not only has a wide variety of vegetarian delicacies but also a number of good veg/vegan restaurants.

What is the best family-friendly thing to do in Istanbul?

One of the best family-friendly places to visit in Istanbul is the Miniaturk Museum in Beyoglu district. Miniaturk is an open air museum that houses more than 100 miniature models of Turkish historical monuments and landmarks. Spread over more than 600,000 sq ft, Miniaturk is one of the world's largest miniature parks that attracts both kids and adults and provides a wonderful learning opportunity for all. There are several food stalls and cafes to fill you up during the tour.

What is the best thing to do in Istanbul for couples?

Istanbul is one of the most beautiful places in the world and that makes it an exceedingly romantic destination. It goes without saying that there are a ton of romantic things to do in Istanbul with the most popular ones being taking a private cruise on the Bosphorus and trying a couple's bath in one of Istanbul's historic hammams. Couple hammams are intimate experiences and best enjoyed with your significant other.

What are the best annual events in Istanbul?

One of the best festivals to attend in Istanbul is the International Tulip Festival that is held every year in spring (usually the month of April) when tulips are in full bloom across all Istanbul parks and public spaces. Millions of tulips bloom across the city making Istanbul even more prettier. There's usually a huge flower carpet in the Sultanahmet area in front of the Blue Mosque. Tulips have long been an integral part of Ottoman life and culture with tulips forming an important embellishment in Turkish tiles and ceramics. It is the National Flower of Turkey and is a symbol of spring, growth and prosperity. Experiencing the Tulip Festival in Istanbul is almost like immersing yourself in a bit of Turkish history and culture.

What are the best things to do around Istanbul?

If you'd like to escape the hustle and bustle of city life in Istanbul and head to somewhere serene and peaceful, then hop on a ferry and head to one of Istanbul's four Princes Islands. These islands are full of lush green forests, charming wooden mansions, and pretty beaches and alcoves. The best part about these islands is that they are car-free. You can walk, hike, or rent a bicycle for the day. The hike up to the Aya Yorgi Monastery in Buyukada, the largest Princes Island, is well-marked, pretty and dotted with stunning views of the Sea of Marmara.

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What people are saying about Istanbul

Overall rating

4.3 / 5

based on 14,472 reviews

We met our knowledgeable and friendly tour guide Ilke Nur at the entrance to Topkapi Palace and after a short queue for security walked through the Topkapi Palace Gardens with views of the Bosphorus. Ilke spoke to us about the Hagia Irene and the palace on the way. Ilke collected our museum entrance tickets and explained that we can visit all of the three museums with this ticket, the archeological, the Asian or the tile. Ilke then spent a generous amount of time explaining the highlights of the museum at each particular exhibit focusing on the ground floor. She also mentioned that the ticket price includes the beautiful park opposite the museums. This is a great tour to find out more about the ancient history of Turkey and the museums and parks are in themselves beautiful places to visit.

Highly recommended to take the full package, including all the drinks and hotel transfers. Food and entertainment is very good and the tour is well organised.

Very knowledgeable guide and overall a nice experience. Ride was comfortable and the meal enjoyable.

Nice experience! The food was relatively ok. The view worth all the money. I recommend it!

A very nice experience. It was a surprise for my parents and they love it